ATHENS (RFE/RL)–The United States, Russia and France on Tuesday renewed their calls for Armenia and Azerbaijan to iron out their remaining disagreements over a framework agreement to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The three nations spearheading the Karabakh peace process urged the conflicting parties to “complete this work as soon as possible” at the end of a two-day flurry of Karabakh-related diplomatic activity on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial conference in Athens.
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov held talks there on Monday and Tuesday in addition to separate meetings with senior American, French and Russian diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. They were joined later on Tuesday by Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Bernard Kouchner of France and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
In an ensuing joint statement read out by Lavrov, the five men noted the current “positive dynamic” in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “They agreed that the increasing frequency of these meetings has significantly contributed to an enhanced dialogue between the parties and forward movement toward finalizing the Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007,” read the statement.
The statement said Nalbandian and Mammadyarov reaffirmed their countries’ stated “commitment to work intensively to resolve the remaining issues” and cut a framework deal based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples.
Earlier in the day, the European Union called for an “appropriate combination” of these principles through Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, the current holder of the EU presidency. “We call again upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to take the necessary decisions to achieve a breakthrough with the endorsement of the Basic Principles proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007,” Bildt told the OSCE conference.
Kouchner also mentioned the Karabakh conflict in his speech at the gathering, speaking of “significant progress” in the negotiating process. “Now is the time to make decisions and I exhort the two parties to seize upon the chance offered to them and finalize, without delay, the principles of settlement proposed to them,” he said.
Both Nalbandian and Mammadyarov stressed the importance of the five-party statement. The Armenian minister emphasized the fact that Azerbaijan signed up to the principle of self-determination that has long been championed by the Armenian side.
“I hope that there will also be a statement by the ministerial conference,” Nalbandian told journalists. “I hope it too will mention these three principles of non-use of force or threat of its use, self-determination and territorial integrity which we have pointed out for months.”
“Of course this is not yet a solution to the problem,” he added. “These are only the main principles that will form the basis of negotiations aimed at bringing the parties’ positions on the principles contained in the Madrid document closer to each other.”
“The more intensive the negotiating process is, the more points of convergence could be found,” Mammadyarov said for his part. “That is very useful for pushing forward negotiations and approaching the completion of discussions of the basic principles and the subsequent signing of a comprehensive peace accord.”
Neither minister would be drawn on possible time frames for finalizing the basic principles that envisage a gradual resolution of the conflict. Nor did they mention the possibility of yet another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in the coming weeks.
The two leaders have held six face-to-face meetings this year. According to the mediators, they made progress “in some areas” at their last talks held in Munich on November 22.
OSCE Minsk Group Statement
The Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, and Deputy Secretary of State of the United States James Steinberg, released the following statement on Tuesday:
The Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of France Bernard Kouchner, and Deputy Secretary of State of the United States James Steinberg met in Athens on December 1 with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and Foreign Minister of Armenia Edward Nalbandian.
The five Heads of Delegation recalled the commitments in the November 2008 Moscow Declaration and the December 2008 Helsinki OSCE Ministerial Statement. They noted the positive dynamic in the talks, demonstrated through six meetings this year between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. They agreed that the increasing frequency of these meetings has significantly contributed to an enhanced dialogue between the parties and forward movement toward finalizing the Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007.
Foreign Ministers Lavrov and Kouchner and Deputy Secretary Steinberg reiterated the commitment of their countries, as expressed in the Joint Statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the L’Aquila Summit of the Eight on July 10, issued by their three Presidents, to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they complete work on the Basic Principles and urged that the parties complete this work as soon as possible. They stressed that agreement on the Basic Principles would provide the framework for a comprehensive settlement to promote a future of peace, stability, and prosperity for the entire region.
The Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan reported on progress during the course of this year in achieving common understandings on points of the Basic Principles. They stated the willingness of their countries to complete work on the Basic Principles, as stipulated by the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries at L’Aquila. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work intensively to resolve the remaining issues, to reach an agreement based, in particular, upon the principles of the Helsinki Final Act of Non-Use of Force or Threat of Force, Territorial Integrity, and the Equal Rights and Self-Determination of Peoples.